Urban Subversive fulfilment – Why I will be reading what I will be reading during my sabbatical

From June – August I’m taking a little sabbatical/period of study leave. One of my aims is to focus on how we go about urban mission. This will include

–          Visiting some people in other contexts

–          Reading books, journal articles and blogposts by others who have experience and/or have also taken time to reflect on this subject

–          Taking time to reflect on our own experience here and think practically about the future

The other day I published an initial reading list with some of the books and websites I think will be of interest to anyone involved in this area of Gospel ministry.

I wanted to explain a little bit more about a couple of my choices

JH Bavinck, The Science of Missions

My working hypothesis is that we need a robust missiology for urban engagement and that such a missiology is best provided by the approach Bavinck argues for.  It is also associated with Pre-suppositional apologetics similar to the approach modelled by Tim Keller, Dan Strange, John Frame and others (hence some of the other reading on the list).

Subversive Fulfilment encourages us to engage fully in a community and to find points of contact. It recognises that people have their hopes, dreams and felt needs and that these can only be properly met in Christ. This approach also recognises that our hopes and dreams are distorted and flet needs can even mask real need. It encourages us to identify and engage with idolatry. Subversion as well as fulfilment is needed so that people can turn from their idols to Christ.

Over the summer I will be considering some of the idols that we face and are attracted to in our urban contexts.

Douglas Carswell, Rebel: How to overthrow the emerging oligarchy and Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working class

The choice of these two books has raised a few eyebrows by some who have seen the list. Why have I included two books that are primarily political and that come from the extremes (alt-right and alt-left)? The answer is very simple

  1. These are two authors representing political movements that are interested in analysing and evaluating the context in which we find ourselves.
  2. They are offering a narrative of the problems people face and a solution. In effect they are offering their own political gospels.

So, if we are going to engage with our urban communities and especially with those who consider themselves to be left-behind then we need to engage with those who are offering solutions. My view is that the solutions offered are idolatrous and in both cases likely to fail and disappoint but it is important to understand why those solutions have proved so attractive to so many.

I hope you enjoy reading along with me.